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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Early Commencement Address for the Class of 2012 (belated for the class of 2011, 2010)

Class of 2010, 2011 & 2012, Parents, teachers and, well, yes, administrators...  

Much is said about great achievements on the course of lengthy commencement speeches, so I will try my best to make this as brief as possible, for it has little to do with great achievement and much to do with keeping your eyes, ears and just about everything you can summon in your favor to keep your head above water.  This will not be a long speech regarding the state of affairs in our country, and how the young generation seems poised to fix it all before us--the ones who really handed this mess over to you--become food for daisies.
Perhaps one of the greatest under-achievers of the United States Presidency was a man by the name of Chester A. Arthur.  You never hear a politician on the campaign trail giving ardent speeches about "the vision of Chester A. Arthur," or referring to the President Arthur as the blistering example of leadership and courage.  Yet, in a very small way, President Arthur saved this great nation from the same fate of Tsarist Russia.  You see, the Russian Bolshevik discontent rose up from the fact that between the very, very rich and the very, very poor, the Russian governmental model had created, little by little, a separate class of government officials, or, as we call them today, administrators.  To get into this fascinating group of civil servants, the Russian people needed, above all, not brains or college degrees or even great personalities... they needed a leg up, someone on the inside that would "baptize" them as one of their own and give them entrance into the comfort of life-long employment doing administrative work that, in reality, no one knew whether it was needed or whether it would make a difference in the grand picture of the Russian nation.  In order words, the administrative class back then was very much like the administrative class today.
A bill sponsored by Senator George Pendleton, a Democrat from Ohio, in 1882 did away with systems of favoritism and much of the worthless pencil pushing, paper-clip counting and M&M sorting going on back then.  In some way, Sen. George Pendleton saved this great nation from a great deal of social unrest, pain and even anarchy.  And President Chester A. Arthur, you may ask?  By signing the Pendleton Act into law, he pushed the last nail on the casket of his reelection bid for a second term. Unfortunately, change for Tsarist Russia came in the form of a total overthrow, violent, vindictive and merciless revolution.  Yet, once the Bolsheviks organized, restructured the form of government they deemed best (Union of Socialist Republics), an administrative class developed three times the size of what once existed under Tsar Alexander, and, as time took its toll, the end for the Soviet Union in 1991 came about for the very same reason... an unsustainable class of administrators pushing pencils, shredding papers, stamping signatures on a boat-load of useless document and needless work.
The administrative class today is in some ways different than previous ones, despite its dependence on about the same level of procedural/operational incompetency.  They need to make their underlings engage in a lot of useless paper work to justify their own administrative work and existence.  In order words, they can make the underlings create portfolios, fill-in check lists with evidence to support “competent” work, only so that they may read over it, or sign it blindly or... well, who knows!  But that's not the most damaging thing the administrative class does, really.  The paper pushing and the "supervising" cannot hold a candle to the amount of lying, cheating, self-interest and moral compass ignoring the administrative class does in order to survive.  At least, it has been so in my experience.
Today’s administrative class thrives on making sure all their liabilities are covered; they grow and sustain themselves by making sure the paper trail of some legal indiscretion NEVER leads to them; they pause their moral compass simply to save their own hide and, most disturbingly of all, are always on the look-out for a scapegoat to blame.  They seldom suffer humiliation and are always at the ready to support one another when the great weight of some allegation creeps along toward them.  Some in the administrative class, not being happy with having been born with the proverbial “Silver Spoon” in their mouth, further depend on Daddy’s big pockets to jiggle themselves into an administrative position they are neither qualified nor capable of doing with any level of competence.  One can’t trust people with this level of self-interest and/or occupational unawareness.
Back in 1998, I read a review in “The Economist” of a book by one Manuel Arroyo, a Spaniard whose book “Contra los Franceses” (Against the French) bears mention here if simply to illustrate the thin resemblance to the arrogance and ineptitude of the administrative class. Arroyo’s satirical bashing relates how “[t]he French are pretentious; the French are superficial; the French are priggish. They are bad-mannered, they waffle and in a squeeze they always behave like pigs, even to each other. Their philosophy is a fad, their wine over-rated, their novels unreadable and in painting they haven’t done anything since Matisse or Picasso, and he wasn’t even French.”  Interestingly, aside from the references to art, philosophy, literature and wine-making techniques, Arroyo could have been writing about the administrative class.  If you have to wonder and think hard as to why I had to make the space for Arroyo’s reference, I assure you the “click” (or a-ha! moment) will come to you when you least expect it.
One hyperbolic scenario I wanted to illustrate to you is this… if you are about to cross the Grand Canyon on a high wire from one end to the other, and as you are about to step on the high wire, you realize that there’s an administrator holding on to the high wire—he or she is the only anchor to the high wire on your side—DO NOT, I repeat, do not attempt to cross.
And so I say to you, Class of 2012, 2011 and 2010, as you leave here today to pursue your life with passion and devotion to what you believe in… Do not trust the Administrative Class.  Do not trust them simply because of their pseudo-bourgeoisie attitude, nor because of their poor irrelevance in today’s world.  I say, do not trust the Administrative Class because to do so is to try to placate their greed, lack of moral direction and self-interest with blind compassion, and the proverbial turning of the other cheek.  It will never work, and all you’ll have to show for is betrayal, pain and humiliation (not to mention the ruining of your good name and reputation). 

Trust me, I am not an administrator.

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Friday, March 16, 2012

Mischa, the Wonder-Kitty (1990-2012)

My Mischa, the Wonder-Kitty, friend and family and companion and secret-sharer of a million joys and sorrows, returned to the arms of the Lord today.  My sorrow is beyond description.  Fare thee well, my sweet princess, may you know more peace and joy in your new home.  Sleep well, sweet princess, key-holder of my heart.

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